The Reviewer’s Review

I’m dealing with a huge review backlog at the moment, even though I’ve been reading. A lot. So many books!

That’s nice, and I’ve got a lot of gushy reviews I need to write about a dozen books now (it’s been a good summer for fantasy reading). Since I blogged last, I’ve done a massive laundry list of things:

  • Took summer classes in statistical genetics.
  • Finally proficient at coding, comfortable with Linux.
  • Adopted a pet tortoise!
  • Hiked the Wonderland Trail.
  • Hiked the Skyline Trail.
  • Went canyoneering for the first time. (Slot canyons are freaking fun!)
  • Biked the San Juan scenic highway. (First bike tour!)
  • Wrote 2 books, started 2 more. (These will be talked about in future posts for sure.)
  • Submitted one of those finished books to PitchWars 2016.
  • Presented in lab meeting, writing a paper.
  • Got a co-authorship on a New England Journal of Medicine paper.
  • Spent 2 rainy days in a tent in the Mt. Baker wilderness but went to an awesome coffee shop 😛
  • Went to Babeland.

It’s been a busy summer. So freaking busy, and I’m trying to transition into a more ‘stable’ schedule for school. I’d also like to get a plan together for my next major book project that I’m 100% sure I’m self-publishing. It’s an ideal project for jumping into the self-pub arena, and I feel I’m more ready to do that now than I was a couple of years ago. This is also a project I want complete control over, so it makes sense.

That said, I want to talk about how I review books. I love fantasy, and I want to laugh, cry, and swear along with the narrative. I want the immersion, even in–and especially in–the uncomfortable moments of the story. I try and take my author hat off when reviewing, but sometimes, this doesn’t happen. There are things that I know about writing that can derail a book for me. Sometimes, there’s a story that is SO CLOSE to being awesome, and I see how it could’ve kicked ass, and that drives me a little crazy reading it. I usually give these books 3 or 4 stars because the author got me to care. That’s the point of a story, after all. If I say ‘screw you’ at the pages too much, it’s a 2 star book, and I’m hate reading at that point.

I came across this article about the different types of reviews that exist. I realized I write the Reviewer’s Review.

The All About the Reviewer Review

All About the Reviewer reviews can be a lot of fun. These reviews are for…other reviewers! Back in the day (and now occasionally in the New York Review of Books) there were many actual book critics who spent their time explaining books by connecting their cultural context and literary significance. Good critics were well versed in their specialties and liked to show it. The wittiest ones were often cheerfully savage and careers were made or hearts were broken. Now, the standard All About the Reviewer review is an extensive book report written for the reviewer’s memory of their favorite high school English teacher. I may seem to be poking fun, but these are the most useful reviews to people who are trying to decide whether to buy/read a book. They’re often thoughtful, complete, and nearly always earnest.

The point is not to flatter the authors (although we authors do like that…ahem) or to give you a 100% objective and unbiased presentation of the story. Beyond the first paragraph, it’s not a synopsis of the book. My reviews are how I interpret the story, how I view it. There are things in stories or ways stories are constructed that uniquely bother me and maybe no one else that’ll ever read the book. There are things that bother other people that I’m okay with or think enhance the story. I read a series with a lot of toilet humor (literally) and swearing. I loved it. This says nothing good about my maturity level, I’m sure, but there are definitely people who give this series 1 star because of the swearing. God’s Play had some negative reviews because of the amount of swearing. That’s something I want all potential readers to be aware of: there is swearing. If that’s an issue for you–for whatever reason–you probably won’t like certain books. There are issues I have that keep me from enjoying certain novels. If you say something stupid about human biology, I can’t let it go. I…cannot…let…it…go. Be warned: if you don’t freaking know how insulin works or have no concept of wilderness travel, that’s going in my review.

I’m not trying to be mean, but that’s my personality. Most people won’t be bothered by my quirky nitpicks when they read a book. That’s fine, and sometimes, with things like sex, violence, and swearing–some readers go out looking for books to have those things! I hunt for books the have awesome sword fights, snarky humor, and involve characters walking a billion miles.

It comes down to preference or, in some cases, an itch that needs scratching.

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